Two weeks ago in this space, I wrote a column lambasting Kentucky GOP elder statesman Larry Forgy -- a prominent supporter of David Williams for Governor -- for the following comments he made in an article about the role of faith in politics, written by Jack Brammer of the Lexington Herald-Leader:
The "only reason" Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear picked former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson to be his running mate was "to attract New York and Hollywood Jewish money" for the campaign.
Williams, to his credit, distanced himself from Forgy's slur in an interview with Pure Politics, a cable news show/political blog hosted by Insight Communications. (Of course, in typical Williams style, he blamed me, the Governor and The Huffington Post for starting the controversy.)
In the same forum, however, Forgy doubled-down on his earlier comments. He claimed that Jews such as George Soros, Barbra Streisand and Steve Spielberg would be pumping in significant loads of cash to support their co-religionist's bid for Lt. Governor. Of course, the reporter followed the interview by noting that none of the those famous names had contributed; and in fact, the Beshear campaign had raised only a tiny fraction of his campaign war chest in New York and Los Angeles.
To fully appreciate the offensive nature of Forgy's virtiol, watch the full interview here:
The Herald-Leader, whose own reporter broke the story, never made another comment. And not until two weeks later did the Louisville Courier-Journal editorial board weigh in, declaring that Forgy's original remarks about Abramson's faith being his only qualification for the ticket "risk stirring up latent anti-Semitism, and they are despicable." But it made no mention of Forgy's far more offensive followup interview; no rebuttal to his bizarre conspiracy theories.
And that's all folks.
The same week the Forgy story broke, the Democratic nominee for state Agriculture Commissioner was caught on video delivering a years-old stand-up comedy routine in which he joked that Eastern Kentucky is a place where "cars are on blocks and houses are on wheels" and that someone told him the FBI would not investigate a particular county "cause all the DNA is alike and there ain't no dental records." These unfunny, demeaning remarks set off an immediate media frenzy.
Why the contrast?
It is not as if this was some outlying voice, a crazy man ranting in a political vacuum. Larry Forgy was the Republican nominee for Governor in 1995, and has been as recently as this May a frequent orator at GOP rallies, a regular guest on local radio and television talk shows, and a popular source for the state's political reporters.
Nor is this an example of consent through silence: Both editorial boards have bravely tackled discrimination and intolerance in all facets and formats, even when their views ran counter to public opinion, such as with gay marriage.
My bet is that is that it was a conscious decision on their parts to deprive oxygen to the flames of anti-Semitism. I suppose they believe that ignoring the issue and refusing to publish the more outrageous accusations will prevent them from being repeated and then accepted in areas of the state where latent anti-Semitism could be transformed into something much worse. Hopefully if this is the case, the rest of the media, as well as the state Republican party, will get the message and send Forgy off to permanent pasture.
But if the 20th Century taught us anything about the proper response to anti-Semitism, it is that we must confront it whenever it raises its ugly head. As I argued in this column two weeks ago, we no longer need to be afraid that this sort of anti-Semitism would be welcomed in this country, even in the rural, conservative Bible Belt. Indeed, by exposing and then denouncing language such as Forgy's, we help reinforce the message now emanating from rural, evangelical churches -- to love their Jewish neighbors.
Forgy's notion of an international conspiracy, joining Jewish financiers and entertainment moguls, is the modern blood libel: the pernicious fantasy spun by anti-Semites to demean, dehumanize and scapegoat the Jewish people. While it may have ideological staying power in some places around the globe, I'm pleased to report that anti-Semitism is diminishing in all of the areas you might expect it to foster here in this country.
To make it disappear completely, we cannot afford to ignore it. It is our duty to affirmatively expose intolerance wherever it still exists and to demonstrate why it is both inaccurate and immoral. Only then will we feel assured that our children and grandchildren won't have to worry about this kind of hatred spreading in the future.